Monica Birkenes

From left, directors Cooper Roberts and Ian Schwartz and cinematographer Pat Scola have been nominated for SXSW Best Music Video for the work they did on artist Mr Little Jeans’ “Good Mistake” music video.
Photo Credit: Courtesy of Ian Shwartz | Daily Texan Staff

Editor’s note: Some answers were edited for length and clarity.

Directors Ian Schwartz and Cooper Roberts’ music video for “Good Mistake” by Mr Little Jeans is nominated for SXSW’s Music Video Competition. Mr Little Jeans, the stage name of dance-pop singer-songwriter Monica Birkenes, released her debut album, Pocketknife, in 2014. The video premieres Tuesday at the Alamo Ritz Drafthouse. Before arriving to Austin, Schwartz and Cooper spoke with The Daily Texan for
a Q&A.   

The Daily Texan: How did you create the concept for the music video?

Ian Schwartz: It was a long time ago that we came up with this concept, but it was really open-ended from the record label. We were inspired by the lyrics. We knew we wanted it to totally have a darkness, and we came up with this trucker character. We wanted to see both sides of someone who’s a little bit tortured but somebody who we can see an emotional side of as well.

We had all of these meetings for the story and almost all the people that saw the video didn’t get it. They came up with their own interpretations. They had their own cool theories for what it was about. My mom had this theory it was about this serial killer who was dancing with the ghosts of his victims.

DT: Do you tell people what you intended it to mean, and does that impede on their own interpretation? Or do you just let them have their own story?

IS: It’s supposed to be an ambiguous narrative. It’s a fine line between something where people go, ‘Oh, that doesn’t make any sense,’ and something that people find intriguing and can add their own meaning to. That was our intention — to have this character not a lot of people have actual relatable experience to but somebody who has emotions and are in a place in their life that might be more universal. 

DT: The video takes place at a gas station. Were you allowed to just take it over?

Cooper Roberts: We searched all over southern California looking for the right truck stop; the stop in Victorville was the winner.

IS: Yeah, I think we went to every truck stop within a 60-mile radius over a week. The location was really important because most would be set there, and we wanted to find a place in the middle of nowhere without a ton of light around it.

DT: Tell me about the final scene with the trucker and the woman sitting in the front seat of the 18-wheeler.

IS: Yeah, that was an emotional scene. I mean, those women are supposed to be truck-stop prostitutes called “lot lizards.” But we wanted to subvert the idea and make them more like motherly figures to him. It was kinda a tender moment with the “lot lizard,” I guess.

DT: What are you looking forward to in Austin? 

IS: I think the last year, we tried to get into a lot of music showcases, but it’s really hard. This year, we were saying we’re going to try and see more films if possible, which is also hard. It’s really hard to get into things at SXSW — even if you win an award. We talked about going on a little one-day trip somewhere, maybe going fishing.